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Profile: Rod Paige
Rod Paige was a participant or observer in the following events:
Sandy Kress. [Source: Publicity photo]Sandy Kress, President Bush’s unpaid education adviser, meets with Bush in his hotel on Longboat Key, Florida, to brief him on their planned 9 a.m. visit to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in nearby Sarasota. With them are Secretary of Education Rod Paige, Bush’s senior adviser Karl Rove, and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card. Kress goes over some key points for the talk Bush is due to give to the press after reading with the students at the school. However, Kress will later recall that the “president is a very punctual person,” and “I’ve never known him to be late.” Yet, “we finished the briefing on that fateful day, and we continued to talk for another ten minutes about people and politics in Texas. The time to leave came and passed.” Kress adds, “That struck me as unusual.” [Kessler, 2004, pp. 136-137; Dallas Morning News, 9/10/2006] According to the official schedule, the president is supposed to leave the resort at 8:30 a.m. for the drive to the school. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Yet, according to one account, he will not leave until as late as 8:39 (see (8:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Times, 10/7/2002]
Karl Rove, Andrew Card, and Dan Bartlett.
[Source: White House, US Office Pristina, Kosovo, White House]President Bush is told that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center for the first time by Karl Rove, his senior adviser, according to some accounts, although other accounts will state that he is first alerted to the crash by another member of his staff. Bush has just arrived at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, where he is going to attend a children’s reading event (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 41-42; Bush, 2010, pp. 126; Rove, 2010, pp. 249-250; Priess, 2016, pp. 240; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Rove Tells Bush about the Crash - During the drive to the school, several members of his staff were informed about the crash at the WTC (see (Between 8:48 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [White House, 8/12/2002; Dayton Daily News, 8/17/2003] Rove received a call alerting him to what had happened as he was arriving at the school (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He will later recall that he then walks over to Bush, who is “with Secretary of Education Rod Paige, shaking hands with staff and teachers outside the school,” and tells him about the crash. [New Yorker, 9/25/2001; Rove, 2010, pp. 249-250; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who arrived at the school around the time the president did, will give a similar account, writing that while Bush is shaking “hands with the teachers and staff who had lined up to greet him,” Rove “stepped beside the president and told him about the plane” hitting the WTC. [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 138-139]
Bush Thinks the Crash Was 'a Terrible Accident' - Rove tells Bush the crash appears to have been an accident involving a small, twin-engine plane. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Bush nods his head, gives “a quizzical look,” and says, “Get more details,” Rove will describe. [Rove, 2010, pp. 250] The president’s initial thoughts in response to the news are: “How could the [pilot] have gotten so off course to hit the towers? What a terrible accident that is.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 42; Washington Times, 10/7/2002] He says: “This is pilot error. It’s unbelievable that somebody would do this.” He confers with Andrew Card, his chief of staff, and says the plane’s pilot “must have had a heart attack.” [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
Someone Else First Gives Bush the News, Other Accounts Will State - Rove will claim that he “was the first to tell [Bush] the news” about the crash. [Rove, 2010, pp. 250] However, according to other accounts, Bush is first told about the crash by some other member of the White House staff. For example, Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, will say she was the first person to inform Bush about it, running up to his limousine and giving him the news as soon as he arrived at the school (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 11/26/2001; Dayton Daily News, 8/17/2003; Priess, 2016, pp. 240] And in 2002, Bush will tell journalist and author Bill Sammon that he was first told about the crash by Card. He will say that as he was heading into the school, while Blake Gottesman, his personal aide, was giving him some final instructions in preparation for the reading event, Card said to him, “By the way, an aircraft flew into the World Trade Center.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 41-42; Washington Times, 10/7/2002] But on other occasions, Bush will state that he was first told about the crash by Rove. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 126] Bush is also told about the crash, after he arrives at the school, by Dan Bartlett, his communications director, according to some accounts. In response to the news, Bartlett will say, Bush asks, “Was it bad weather [that caused the crash]?” [White House, 8/12/2002; Draper, 2007, pp. 135] After learning about the crash, Bush will go to a classroom from where he will talk on the phone with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who is at the White House, and discuss what has happened with her (see (Shortly Before 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Times, 10/7/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 126-127]
President Bush enters Sandra Kay Daniels’ classroom. [Source: Lions Gate Films]President Bush enters the second-grade classroom of teacher Sandra Kay Daniels at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, where he is going to listen to the children reading. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 43; Associated Press, 8/25/2002] Bush is scheduled to observe a series of reading drills in the class and the demonstration is set to end at 9:15 a.m. [US President, 9/2001] He arrived at the school shortly before 9:00 a.m. (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 41] Since then, he has been told that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and that the plane involved was a commercial airliner (see (Shortly Before 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Dayton Daily News, 8/17/2003; Rove, 2010, pp. 249-250; Bohn, 2015, pp. 214]
Bush Enters the Classroom Two Minutes Late - After taking a call from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Bush enters Daniels’ classroom for the reading demonstration two minutes later than planned, at 9:02 a.m. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 42-43; Washington Times, 10/7/2002] About 60 people are in the room, including 16 second graders and Daniels, their teacher. [Sarasota Magazine, 11/2001; South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/11/2011] Reporters who are traveling with the president and members of the local media are assembled at the back of the room. [Associated Press, 8/25/2002] Secret Service agents are lying in the trusses above the room. [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002]
Bush Is Introduced to the Class - Gwendolyn Tosé-Rigell, the school principal, accompanies Bush into the room. She says hello to the children and then tells them, “Would you please stand and recognize the president of the United States—President Bush.” After saying, “Good morning,” Bush introduces the children to Secretary of Education Rod Paige and Florida Lieutenant Governor Frank Brogan, who come in behind him and then take their positions at the side of the room. Bush tells the children, “Good to meet you all.” Tosé-Rigell then introduces the president to Daniels. He goes over to the teacher and shakes her hand. After instructing the children to sit down, he tells the class: “It’s really exciting for me to be here. I want to thank Ms. Daniels for being a teacher. I want to thank Gwen for being a principal. And I want to thank you all for practicing reading so much. It’s really important.” Finally, a minute after he entered the classroom, Daniels and the children begin their reading demonstration.
Bush Still Thinks the Crash at the WTC Was an Accident - As he watches the children reading, Bush will start thinking about the statement he will need to make about the crash at the WTC, although he is not particularly troubled about the incident at the moment. “I was concentrating on the [reading] program at this point, thinking about what I was going to say,” he will later recall. He will add: “Obviously, I felt [the crash] was an accident. I was concerned about it, but there were no alarm bells.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 43-49; Washington Times, 10/7/2002] A few minutes after the reading demonstration begins, Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff, will enter the room, and whisper to the president that a second plane has crashed into the WTC and America is under attack (see (9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but despite hearing this devastating news, Bush will stay in the room and listen to the rest of the demonstration (see (9:08 a.m.-9:13 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 83-91; Washington Times, 10/7/2002; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38-39]
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